PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian divers have the quality to grab the lion's share of the gold medals in next month's SEA Games. But for that to happen, fair judging must prevail in Korat.
The organisers of the Korat Games reinstated the full programme of the diving competition a few months back and it is good news for the Malaysian contingent, who are looking at aquatics as one of the main medal contributors.
Four events - the men's and women's 1m springboard, men's 3m springboard and women's 10m platform synchronised – were initially not included and it would have meant missed opportunities at winning gold medals for Malaysia.
Two of the five Malaysian golds from diving in Manila 2005 came from the men's 1m springboard through Yeoh Ken Nee and Leong Mun Yee-Cheong Jun Hoong in the women's 10m platform synchronised event.
The Malaysian divers staved off a fierce challenge from hosts Philippines amidst claims of unfair judging to emerge as overall champions in diving two years ago. Both ended with five gold medals but Malaysia raked in more silver and bronze medals.
Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary Edwin Chong said the group of eight divers selected for the Korat SEA Games would be going in to contend for gold medals in all 10 events.
“We have assembled the best group of divers and all should be able to come back with medals.
“To win five gold medals is not that difficult for our divers but whether we are able to get more than that is another matter, considering diving being a subjective sport in nature.
“If our athletes do really well and not stumble on their dives, we have a good chance of bagging more,” said Edwin.
And that is where good preparations play an important role.
The Malaysians are being trained to perform higher level of difficulties in a bid to keep their competitive edge over their rivals.
Ken Nee, a double gold medallist in Manila in the individual 1m and 3m springboard titles, looks good to chalk a repeat in Korat provided he can hold off a strong challenge expected from Thai diver Suchart Puchi.
Suchart played second fiddle to Ken Nee in both individual springboard events in Manila but there are fears that home ground advantage may spoil it for Malaysia.
However, Ken Nee-Rossharisham, who have won two bronze medals in the FINA World Grand Prix Diving this year, may prove to be too strong for the field in the 3m springboard synchronised.
Bryan Nickson, who was the first Malaysian athlete to earn a place in the Beijing Olympics, is also expected to retain the 10m platform individual gold without any trouble.
In the women's competition, Malaysia can bank on world junior champion Elizabeth Jimie and Mun Yee to challenge for the 1m and and 3m springboard individual titles.
There is also a chance of a surprise gold coming from 13-year-old Pandelela Rinong, who will partner Jun Hoong for the 10m platform synchronised event. The new combination beat the former SEA Games gold medallists Shenny Ratna Amelia and Herliani Dias Sukhamati of Indonesia to win the gold in the Asian Junior Championships in Jakarta in August.